Joe on Catholic Catechism

Reader Mikey has an amusing question:

Hi Joe! Loved your St. Lucy posts, and I hope you won’t be offended, but being a Catholic I wonder if you can answer something for me. Do Catholics really worship saints as, well, gods?

Ha! I love that. First let me say that the first commandment states that “You shall have no other gods before me.” The before me implies that the odd kitchen or tool shed god is permissible so long as you don’t forget who number one is!

But seriously, no. Catholics “worship” only Yahweh. We would say we “venerate” or “honor” saints, which is to say people who led lives of great example which we seek to emulate…though not be roasted on a grill, eaten by lions or have our eyes gouged out by Roman centurions if we can possible help it.

12 thoughts on “Joe on Catholic Catechism”

  1. I’m a Catholic and a long time admirer of saints, I think the best way to describe them is to compare them to heroes (and heroines) of history.
    We admire Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington etc, and even erect statues and monuments to them. But we certainly don’t worship them. Same thing with saints. Catholics also ask saints for their prayers, just as we would ask anyone else to pray for us.

  2. Ha, I’m Orthodox and we are also big on saints, so to speak.
    In my cookbook collection, full of both useful and useless titles, I have a book called “A tavola con i santi – storie, ricette, curiosita” (Eating With the Saints) by Mariangela Rinaldi and Mariangela Vicini. Its recipes are all linked to a saint’s name: St. Agatha’s Olives, St. Anthonys’s Slipper, St. Biagio’s Pie, St. Gennaro’s Baby Squid, St. Joseph’s Rice Dumplings, San Siro’s Bread etc.
    Each recipe comes with two or three pages of history and stories.
    Interesting and funny.

  3. Thanks for that final clarification, Joe. A very important thing for all devout Catholics to remember — the limits of “devoutness”!

  4. Thank you for that clarification, to non Catholics. I have been telling Protestants for years that we Catholics ask the Saints to pray for us just as the Protestants ask their prayer circles to pray for them. But, for some reason they still see it as “worshiping”. Hopefully someday they will get it.

    1. Hehe…hundreds of years of bad PR don’t disappear overnight…Catholics and statue worship are synonymous in some circles. Hopefully that’s changing. If not I confess I experience a certain frisson of being seen as an idolater! 😉


      – Joe

  5. Speaking of “statue worship”… I keep a statue of St. Joseph in the dining room. He is the patron saint of “Joe’s”, as you no doubt know. I can’t wait for his feast day in March… all I do is bake and give thanks for the inspirationof Joe.

  6. It’s worth noting that in the early days of the Christian church, the missionaries to the various European pagans intentionally absorbed local deities into the church as saints – the one that comes to mind is St. Brigit, who was an Irish goddess before she was a saint. Presumably this was on the theory that it was easier to convert the locals if they had some names they recognised in the new religion. (I also suspect that the line between “venerate” and “worship” was a lot fuzzier then than it is now.)

    1. Indeed it went that way too from time to time from what I understand.

      Thanks Jane!

      – Joe

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